Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spear-phishing, the last refuge for scoundrels who don’t even have patriotism

So I’ve been getting a lot of these lately:

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 7.35.20 PMIt’s an e-mail (often from a address), sending what looks like an article from El Universal, the Venezuelan newspaper. Oh, here’s one that specifically tries to look like it’s from El Universal: Continue reading


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Oil notes from around South America

You have no idea how many half-written blog posts I have in my stack. Not going to publish before their time. But here are a few interesting things to keep you busy:

Flooding in the Neuquén province of Argentina is causing problems for the local oil industry, including a truck stuck in a washout and a spill of crude oil and produced water.

El Cartel Negro is a remarkable investigation of how organized crime dominates Pemex, Mexico’s state oil company. The book is now available at Amazon and other on-line vendors. I’m reading it, I’ll try and review it at some point.

Colombian oil drilling is being blamed (passive mood quite intentional, I don’t know who’s behind this campaign) for a drought in Casanare. I have no idea if there’s anything to these accusations, but I have written before about how oil drilling in the Colombian llanos is really water drilling with a bit of oil mixed in.

Cuba is using Dassault Falcons with Venezuelan registrations as presidential jets. I can’t find much info about who owns these

Speaking of PDVSA, the company is continuing to provide millions of dollars a year for a Formula 1 racing team. (Thanks SM for the heads-up on that.) Cash crunch, what cash crunch?

US Senator Marco Rubio has been making a stink about Venezuela as a human rights violator, and threatening to revoke visitor visas for some government figures. He also says the US shouldn’t impose sanctions on Venezuelan oil.

Rebecca Solnit gives the very big picture on how the oil industry is a giant case of institutional violence.

If you want little tidbits like this all the time, you should subscribe to my Twitter feed. I may be off in the Great White North but I continue to track South American oil and energy.


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How is PDVSA doing with its investment plans?

In August 2010, PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, published this annual report. On page 43 of the PDF, you can see the company’s investment plan. It was supposed to spend $58 billion on capital expenditures in 2013 in order to bring the Orinoco Belt into massive production.

It was one in a series of investment plans that made realistic projections for the year in process and absurd plans for massive spending two or three years out. According to the company’s annual reports, investment spending has gone up over the years. But it’s never accelerated as planned. Even the memory of the plans is now concealed: the report I have posted here is no longer linked up on the PDVSA website.

Yours for no extra charge, here’s a chart of the company’s investment plans over the years (in red tones) and real spending (the thick blue line). The left scale indicates billions of US dollars. The red lines show how much PDVSA planned to spend in each future year — back in 2006 and 2007, the idea was to creep along and magically get to 5.8 million barrels a day without much investment, then in 2008 projections rose to reflect rising oilfield service prices. In 2009, the plan suddenly recognized that the Orinoco Belt wasn’t going to develop itself, and would need tens of billions of dollars a year of investment. But 2010 came. Venezuela saw most international oil companies boycott the big Carabobo bid round in 2009, and both Statoil and Total declined to turn in proposals when they were invited to develop a new field. PDVSA’s cost of financing surged. Where would $50 billion a year come from? The latest plans show a bit more contact with reality, indicating a more or less gradual increase in investment until 2018.

The unfortunate part of this is that the peak spending year has been steadily pushed back in every plan. So Venezuela’s oil output keeps stagnating, and the country isn’t able to monetize its greatest natural patrimony. The good part of all of this is that every year Venezuela delays developing the Orinoco Belt, a lot of very dirty fuel remains in the ground. Long term, those of us who recognize climate change as important will be thankful for Bolivarian incompetence.

PDVSA Investment plans vs spending 2007-12

PDVSA Investment plans vs spending 2007-12

Sources: PDVSA Annual reports 2007-12


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Chile going renewable

This is what we like to see. Here is January’s power mix in Chile, with year-over-year change in the right-hand column:

Chile SIC generation mix change 2013-14

The power generation mix in Chile’s main electrical grid, the SIC, has changed a bit over the past year: Solar generation up 22-fold, wind generation up 3.5-fold, hydro generation up 10%, and thermal — meaning fossil fuels — down 6%. Source here.

Add to that what happened in February. Note that solar power quadrupled month-over-month.

February power mix in Chile

According to Business News Americas, the upshot is that February’s solar energy output in the SIC grid increased more than 100-fold over a year earlier. 

Much more solar and wind power has been approved for construction in the country, so next year the GWh from solar should be even higher.


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Venezuela unrest: Just another delay for the oil industry

Photo courtesy of PDVSA

Photo courtesy of PDVSA

As Reuters ably showed yesterday, Venezuela’s wave of demonstrations and crackdowns are unlikely to affect the oil industry “in the short term.” The article left out the long term, but it’s pretty clear that it these rallies and counter-rallies can’t help the industry get out of its long-term slump. Every day that goes by like workers marching instead of, you know, working, and every time the oil minister has to spend hours either speaking about politics or attending cabinet meetings is another day of delay for PDVSA’s big capital projects: building new cities, ports, water systems and pipelines in the Orinoco belt, arranging financing with private partners, that sort of thing.

For those of us worried about global climate change, these delays are a good thing — they keep some of the world’s dirtiest crude in the ground, raising fuel prices and encouraging a transition to clean energy.

For those of us worried about the well-being of the Venezuelan people, the news isn’t so happy. Remember this chart, showing in schematic form how the government’s oil output goals have grown more ambitious over the years. When I wrote that, four months ago, Venezuela was aiming for roughly a 3 million barrel-a-day increase over the following five years. Of course output changes in big increments, but that works out to about 2,000 barrels a day of new production in order to overcome decline and also boost output. Every single day that workers are out enjoying the sunshine means those 2,000 barrels need to be spread out among the remaining days.

And what is PDVSA brass thinking about these days? I know there’s always a gap between public relations and reality, but here are the latest press releases via e-mail (a bit wider selection than what you can get from the company’s increasingly dysfunctional web site):

Capture d’écran 2014-02-27 à 7.56.24 AMSince Feb. 16, the company has sent 53 press releases, of which one was specifically about oil operations (PDVSA to construct blending plant in Orinoco Belt), and one more about PDVSA bonds. In other words, the real cause of these protests — that Venezuela is falling into an economic shithole — has no near-term exit.

So to cheer you up, here are a few more of the photos PDVSA has sent out:

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UPDATE: I just want to point out that this post is an example of the kind of lazy reporting I like to complain about. What happens on the internet (or in this case e-mail) doesn’t actually matter. What matters happens in the hands and heads of the Venezuelan people. And I’m not there, so I can’t report much on that, so I write what I know, which isn’t much. For better info, find people on the ground, especially people whose politics you disagree with, follow their tweeters, read what they are seeing and saying.


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Crowdflower makes things right

I’m not blogging much these days, what with real life giving me plenty to work on, but I thought it only fair to give Crowdflower credit for eliminating the reputation management tasks designed to help the Bolibourgeoisie that I described here. Glad that’s done, though it took way too long. Onward…

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Pacific Rubiales spills oil in Peru, El Comercio says

El Comercio has the story (my translation):

The Port of Zorritos Harbormaster activated its oil spill control and mitigation plan Thursday because of an oil leak from Platform CX-11, run by Pacific Rubiales SRL.

The Peruvian Navy explained that the plan was activated as soon as the harbormaster was told at 10:30 a.m. Thursday by artisanal fishermen in the area. The spill occurred Wednesday night.

Authorities say the workers controlled the leak and began ocean cleanup efforts. The slick didn’t make it to the shore of the heavily visited northern bathing area. Prosecutors and the Environmental Evaluation and Inspection Agency were also present in the area to evaluate the degree of ocean pollution.

Pictures here.

Pacific Rubiales’ news web page right now, 30 hours after the government was alerted to the spill by local fishermen:

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 2.13.50 PM

Pacific Rubiales didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking further information and comment. (UPDATE 3 am: It’s been 13 hours, can we just say they are ignoring me? I think so. Typical. The only company that has ever cut me off from listening to its conference call. Great media relations those guys have.)

I always wondered about Pacific Rubiales’ decision to buy BPZ, an oil company that had a series of operational problems including a pretty nasty oil spill. Wonder no more!

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US alleges more South America oil corruption. This time in Colombia. (UPDATED)

Bloomberg has the story.

Two former co-chief executive officers of PetroTiger Ltd. paid bribes to an official atEcopetrol SA (ECOPETL), Colombia’s state-controlled oil company, for a $39.6 million oil-service contract, the U.S. charged.

The co-CEOs funneled payments through the wife of an official at Ecopetrol, Latin America’s second-largest oil company by market value, authorities said.

Plenty more where that came from.

And here, yours for no extra fee (since I already paid the fee and I believe in the freedom), the prosecution description of the cases against:
Gregory Weisman
Joseph Seligman
Knut Hammarskjold

As usual, innocent until proved guilty, and I’ll update the tale as more info arrives.

Now let’s see if the allegedly corrupt Colombian official takes any heat. Because if he took one bribe to approve a contract, it’s hard to believe it was the only time that happened. I bet he has some interesting e-mails laying about.

Update at midnight: W Radio cites our friends at Primera Página in this long story explaining what it thinks went down, in detail, in Spanish.


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Venezuela’s reputation protection racket using Crowdflower

Alek Boyd has the story. Very nice follow-up on this whole reputation protection story. Long story short: whoever is protecting reputation for the Bolibourgeoisie (denials notwithstanding, quite likely this cat called Rafael Núñez) is now using the services of the consummate startup Crowdflower to boost search rank of some of his or her clients. Lukas Biewald, one of the founders of Crowdflower used to work on search relevance at Yahoo. And his tools are now being used to screw up search relevance. Go figure.

Alek also gives a bit more about the convicted terrorist murderer and now reputation management beneficiary Ramiro Helmeyer. Go give a read.


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Venezuela cash crunch note

Minor item, but I had thought Venezuela’s recent cash crunch came from the Amuay refinery explosion and the need to import lots of fuel for international prices. I downloaded the convenient chart of the country’s black market currency rate from and I see that the steady exchange rate broke down on August 15, while the explosion didn’t happen for another two weeks. So if there was any causal connection, it might have been the other way. Chart:



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